Immigration raids firm, 8 detained
Mexican greenhouse workers in custody
The Windsor Star
Published: Friday, May 29, 2009
The Canadian Border Services Agency has detained eight people after a Wednesday immigration raid at a Leamington business.
“CBSA officers have detained eight individuals for possible violations of the (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act),” agency spokeswoman Teri Mailloux said Thursday afternoon.
She said the CBSA conducted an investigation Wednesday at a Leamington business which she would not name. She said the agency enforces the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and conducts investigations of possible violations of the act.
“Since the investigation is ongoing I can't provide any further details at this time,” Mailloux said.
Sima Sahar Zerehi, a national representative with UFCW Canada in Toronto, said the people being detained are women from Mexico who were working at a greenhouse.
UFCW Canada, a union that has fought for the rights of migrant farm workers and has an agricultural support centre in Leamington, called for money to be spent on better working and living conditions for migrant workers instead of immigration raids.
“What happens through these raids is that we are shaking a community to its core. We're seeing a community that has a large and vibrant population of migrant workers,” Zerehi said.
“These rounds of attacks on the worker populations, the result of these attacks is the workers are further marginalized and made even more vulnerable.”
Zerehi said there were other immigration raids in southern Ontario in April.
She said the immigration raids will force more foreign workers underground. There could be 250,000 to 500,000 undocumented workers in Canada, Zerehi said. She didn't know how many are in the Leamington area.
The only foolproof solution is to allow foreign workers to become permanent residents, she said. “If a worker is good enough to work in Canada, then they certainly should be good enough to stay in Canada.”
There are programs such as the temporary foreign worker program which allow foreign workers to legally come to Canada.
The programs link a worker to a specific employer and Zerehi said it is difficult for them to switch employers if they find they are not being paid what they expected or the working conditions are poor. So some stay in Canada and switch employers but don't have valid work permits with the new employer. She said the low-skill workers are afraid to report problems for fear they will be sent back home.
Sometimes workers are refugees or have come to Canada as visitors and don't have the proper work permits.
Farms in the Leamington area bring in thousands of workers each year from Mexico and the Caribbean.